Back to Issue Twenty-Three.

Rimbaud’s Father

BY CHARLIE CLARK

Once, in Algeria, wild dogs
ate the wooden fore-wheel

of a woman’s pushcart
while he and his fellow

infantrymen looked on,
a half-dozen of them

having commandeered her
porch for napping. Some

things are inevitable. How
he tried to help her clean

the pulp up after, how
something in the slobber,

the thickness of it coating
the wood, slowed him.

Each scrap white as chicken
meat after the cleaver

and the peeling and the rinsing
in cold water. He knew

men who bragged about
eating their lieutenant’s

thighs after weeks trapped
in cold mountains. He knew

it was mostly lies, and that
it would be their only legacy.

He knew to call the dogs
charms sent to assure him

he would survive this
and that he was not destined

for greater things. So when
one dog came back, mottled,

prancing, sharp cowlick
of its jaw angled high

to keep the rough strip
of wheel it mouthed from

dragging, one of the soldiers
shot it. It bled out howling

and they let it. Soon after,
another soldier torched

the woman’s house. He cut
for himself a swatch of her

curtain. No secret to see
in the elegant little turnstiles

of its embroidery. History
is dainty. Even panic can

seem quaint there. He knows
what the future has

no use for; he’s no different
than the acres of his father’s

failing orchards, his hours
itching the harvest in,

the bland-to-bitter paste
they made of all its ripeless figs.

 

 

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Charlie Clark studied poetry at the University of Maryland. His work is forthcoming from Crab Orchard ReviewNew England Review, Ploughshares, and Western Humanities Review.

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